Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why Giving Kids Awards Isn't Always So Great

Image result for pictures of awards clipart
What more can we give you to make you feel special?

We get a lot of recognition in this country. In fact, with the rise of technology, I would venture to say that most of our life--and the lives of our children--are about recognition.  We strive for a certain status (financial, social, and FB). We chase after "likes" and awards and medals and accolades.

But, as followers of Christ, we aren't here for the favor of man. We aren't here to get a pat on the back, a thumbs' up or a stamp of approval. The "well done" should come from God and it shouldn't be expected here and now.

Recently my daughter finished up her Classical Conversations Co-op with a celebration and award ceremony. Did every child get a certificate of completion? Naturally. But I was pleased to see that not everyone received a trophy.  As the handful of students rose to receive their awards, my daughter asked me why she wasn't getting one, and I gladly told her.  "Those kids worked a little harder [ahem, a lot harder]. They memorized all their work in every subject and became 'Memory Masters'. It took a ton of time and perseverance."
"Oh," was her simple reply.

A few weeks ago my two older kids took swim lessons; both did well. Both got in the water every night and tried their best, and I was proud of their efforts, but only one earned a certificate.  Only one passed the expectations and standards of completion.

Again, I explained why. Was I upset that my children didn't get equal recognition and an award for every class they participated in? Some parents would be ("It's not fair." "It makes them feel left out." "It damages their self-esteem.")

Let me tell you what I think is damaging our young people today: receiving something they didn't earn.  In other words...entitlement.

I've talked about it before, so I'll try to avoid stepping up on that box yet again. But, I do believe that handing out awards for every single thing a child does is not developing depth in their understanding or grit in their character.

1. First off, when we give an award to every child (no winners, no losers, everyone the same), we don't teach them the importance of consequences and hard work.  Every choice we make has a consequence, whether it be positive or negative. Our choices have backlash. If we give an award even to a child that didn't practice, didn't study, and didn't care, we are reinforcing this false belief that one doesn't really have to put forth effort to get what one wants.  Red flag.  And major wake up call when adulthood finally sets in. What's going to motivate them to try?

2. Also, when we give kids awards and trophies for every little thing, we minimize their ability to persevere through the challenges. Instead, the mentality becomes, "Well, I did something--it may not have been much or even my best--but don't I deserve a reward?"
So, we create children who grow into adults with this "give me" attitude. Instead of reaching their hand out to give, they are always looking to get their hand filled. 

3. The trophies of this life distract us from the eternal and keep us focused on the temporary. In Randy Alcorn's book, The Treasure Principle, he encourages believers in page after page to reject the greed of our culture and store up treasure in heaven, which is eternal and glorifying to God and significant to others and their souls (Matthew 19:21).  "Jesus is keeping track of our smallest acts of kindness: 'If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.'(Matthew 10:42)"(Alcorn 39). Alcorn goes on to discuss our life here on this earth as a dot on a page with eternity as an infinite line that stretches from that dot onward till...well, forever. This life isn't about us or our merits. It's about preparing to go Home and helping others prepare as well.

A couple nights ago I felt this tugging on my spirit. God was speaking and I needed to give a response. Here was my simple prayer:
       God, help me not to make more of this life than I should. Forgive me for making less of you than
        I should. Please, be Lord. 

When am I going to truly get that it's not about me? It's not about this world or the glistening offerings it seems to grant. Everything is tarnished nickel and won't last."Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15).  On the flip side, the crown of life is promised to those who follow wholeheartedly and don't give up (James 1:12). I would much rather run after The Glory than chase a glory that is going to rust and fade.

And what a privilege that will be: to take whatever reward he has graced on us and
place it at the feet of the only One who truly deserves anything. 

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